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Monday, 19 September 2016

Lib Dems attack the Tories' record on green energy

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Spokesperson Baroness Lynne Featherstone has accused the Conservative government of trashing the previous coalition government’s green legacy. Attacking the Tories Baroness Featherstone accused them of slashing subsidies for renewable energy while spending billions subsidising Hinkley Point.

The government’s own impact assessment has predicted up to 19,000 job losses in the wind and solar sector. The Liberal Democrats are debating a package of measures to new green industrial strategy at their conference in Brighton.

Speaking at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton Baroness Lynne Featherstone said: "The Coalition was the greenest government ever. We tripled the amount of electricity from renewable sources and set up the Green Investment Bank. On their own, the Conservatives have gone backwards."

Turning her attention to the government's decision to give the go ahead to Hinkley point Baroness Featherstone said: "The eye-wateringly expensive Hinkley power station has been given the green light, while the solar industry is being ripped apart. Huge damage has been done to an industry on the verge of becoming subsidy-free."

"Our renewables industry can thrive with the right investment. It has huge potential for generating profits, creating jobs and exporting to the world’s rapidly expanding green markets. It’s time the Conservatives started valuing the green economy - for its business potential if not for its environmental benefits." Lynne Featherstone added

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

If you believe in Britain then there is only one choice

We all know why David Cameron called the referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union. He called it as he was worried about UKIP taking seats from the Tories at the 2015 general election and he was hoping to sooth Tory divisions on Europe. As a plan it was going well, after all he never expected to get a majority in the 2015 election and those pesky Lib Dems wouldn't support a referendum so he could blame them for not keeping his promise. This is where the Prime Minister fell down. The Tory campaign to keep Labour out with their SNP-Labour coalition propaganda worked too well. It helped swing Lib Dem voters in the South West and West London to swing behind the Tories to keep Labour out.

So he had a majority and for about thirty seconds of enjoyment before Euro-sceptic Tory MPs were on his back and worse hitting the airwaves, doing the one thing the Prime Minister had asked them not to do, they were "banging on about Europe". Now ever since Mrs Thatcher's time in the late 1980s the Tories have been divided over Europe. The Major government was nearly brought down by Tory rebels on Europe. Only reason Sir John Major remained in office was because the Lib Dems were whipped into the lobby to support him over the Maastrict treaty. William Hague as Leader managed to get agreement on 'in Europe but not run by Europe' and that line held until the Prime Minister conceded referendum.

Now the Prime Minister said when making the case for the referendum that the United Kingdom could survive outside the European Union. Of course we could but he doesn't want to. Now the Remain campaign which has been fronted by David Cameron and George Osborne it has been 'project fear' there have been wild claims from them both. Such as suggesting world war three could break out if we left Europe. The Treasury have been suggesting the UK could go into recession, all independent economic forecasters agree. George Osborne has been making a claim that every house hold in Britain would be £4,300 worse off that one isn't true and the Treasury select committee told him to stop using it.

The Remain campaign should have made the positive case for remaining in the EU for Britain but instead we've had claims from the Prime Minister about the danger the United Kingdom faces if we left the European Union. While on a visit to B&Q he used, probably the worst sound bite ever, "it'll be a DIY recession" if we leave. It did mean that the less polite chaps/chapesses in the media did ask him if it put the UK is so much danger why did he call the referendum. He just said it was right to give the public a vote on it. After covering much of it, I can't say I agree with him.

Why don't I agree with him? Well its not just 'project fear' that we have had, we've also had 'project fibs' from the main leave campaign. We've all seen Boris' bus with the £350m lie on the side. Vote Leave were instructed to remove it by the UK statistics authority & by the Treasury select committee. It was this lie that in the end forced Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston to switch sides, after the Vote Leave claimed that money could be used for the National Health Service. The amount membership costs the UK is £10bn. A lot of money but Boris & Co have spent it 10 times over during this campaign. 

Vote Leave also claim that Turkey are going to join the EU, they're not. Cyprus have been vetoing Turkish accession talks and are refusing to remove that veto. They are also claiming that there will be a European army. There wont be as it would lead to a transfer of power to Brussels and another referendum before the UK could sign up to it, rough guess the people would say no. They have also been concentrating on immigration a tactic that Sadiq Khan called "project hate"

Vote Leave excluded Nigel Farage and his band of followers from their campaign. Although they have been stealing his policies such as points based immigration system. Mr Farage launched a poster the other day which was almost identical to a poster used by the National Socialist Party in Germany in the 1930s. Its known as the 'breaking point' poster and has been described as "racist", "intolerant", "bigoted", "xenophobic" and of "dragging politics into the gutter". Leave.EU, the campaign Mr Farage is a member of, put out a poster which claimed that an Orlando style attack could happen if we didn't leave the European Union, they took it down after a media firestorm.

Like in any election/referendum the politicians make claims and counter claims and argue among themselves. Well in a general election if a party tells porkies to get themselves elected you can throw them out at the following election, as the Liberal Democrats found out last year. But in this campaign the Leave campaigns have lied about various things already mentioned and tried to whip up tensions over immigration. The Remain campaign have exaggerated fears for the economy about leaving but even when you remove their exaggerated claims the predictions of a recession, higher unemployment are still there from independent experts and on job losses as Michael Gove of vote leave told the Skynews debate "I can't guarantee people wont lose their jobs". 

If we vote to leave it'll mean border controls again between Ulster/Eire border as Ireland would be in the European Union and Northern Ireland would not. Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that if Scotland is taken out of the EU after voting remain it would trigger another Scottish Independence referendum. It will mean tariffs on all British imports and exports. Meaning everyday items such as food will be more expensive. The value of the pound will fall, of which Nigel Farage said "so what". Mr Farage may not have to worry about higher inflation and rising interest rates but the vast majority of people do. If the economy isn't working then Britain isn't working so if you believe in Britain then there is only one choice tomorrow and it is to vote to remain as a member of the European Union.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Brexit will mean more cuts and tax rises say Labour

Labour have today set out new analysis showing what the party say a Tory Brexit Budget would look like if the UK were to leave the European Union. Labour claim the hit to the UK economy caused by leaving the EU would weaken the public finances and leave a Tory Government committed to austerity being forced to set out how they would meet their discredited fiscal targets.

Labour’s analysis of figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that a Tory Brexit Budget will hit our public services and family finances hard.

If the additional Tory austerity was shared equally between cuts to day-to-day public spending, reductions in social security and tax rises, it could mean:

  • Spending: Departmental resource budgets would fall by 2.8 per cent in 2019-20 on top of existing plans. The Department of Health would be cut by £3.5 billion, the Department for Education by £1.6 billion, the Home Office by £300 million and the Ministry of Defence by £800 million.
  • Social security: The Tories would need make cuts to social security reductions which are the equivalent of: re-introducing the cuts to Personal Independence Payments they tried to get through in March’s Budget; increasing the taper rate for Universal Credit, hitting low-paid working people; and abolishing child benefit and rolling it into Universal Credit
  • Tax: The Tories would need to increase taxes, for instance increasing VAT to 22 per cent, in order to make up the difference

Commenting Labour’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, said: "Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. If the UK was to vote to leave the European Union we know the Tories would choose more austerity to deal with the economic fall-out and meet their discredited fiscal promises."

Mr Watson continued: "Leave campaigners like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove need to tell the British public what a Tory Brexit would mean in terms of the public finances and further austerity. But what is clear is that working people across the country would pay the price of leaving the EU– through cuts to public services, social security cuts and higher taxes like another Tory VAT rise. This is the price of Tory Brexit. It is a price that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and the like are happy for other people to pay."

"Britain is faced with a fundamental choice: whether to choose jobs and growth by voting to remain, or to choose exit and the Tory cuts and tax rises that would bring. Working people would be hurt by a vote to leave. Labour won’t stand by while that happens so we’re redoubling our efforts and saying loud and clear: we’re in for Britain." Tom Watson added.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Labour say there could be 160,000 extra homes by 2020 if UK remains within the EU

The Labour party is today providing, what they call, a "positive alternative to a Tory Brexit" by setting out their plans to use the European Union to double the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) commitment to funding social housing provision (currently 20,000 homes) in order to bring the UK’s per capita share of funding in line with the EU average.

Labour claim that if the United Kingdom moved to the European Union average of per capita EIB investment then it would increase funding from £5.6 billion last year to £8 billion. 

Labour say they would learn from best practice from devolved administrations across the UK on how to improve the quantity and quality of proposals sent to the EIB. This could mean a possible annual £2.4 billion increase in funding (almost £10 billion by 2020) available for UK businesses, which could then be used to help tackle issues like the UK’s housing crisis.

For example, if applied next year it could fund 40,000 homes a year, which over the next four years to 2020 could mean 160,000 new affordable homes. And a potential of an additional 65,000 jobs each year.

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said: "Labour wants to remain and reform Europe so that we can better use the levers of power inside the EU to ensure our country punches its weight in the world and better delivers for all working people. The opportunities to build a better world will be with a Labour vote to remain in the EU, not a Tory Brexit. Labour wants to build a better Europe and that can start by using the EU to increase investment that could be used to build more homes here, and help tackle the Tory housing crisis."

Attacking the Chancellor, George Osborne, John McDonnell said: "With George Osborne clinging to his failed austerity policies, and cutting investment despite the overwhelming consensus from businesses, trade unions, and economists to support boosting it, there is an urgent need to deliver the investment spending we need for 21st century infrastructure like high speed rail and high speed broadband, as well as solving the housing crisis."

Turning his fire onto the Conservative government, Mr McDonnell said: "The Tories are failing to take the opportunities that the European Investment Bank provides, leaving Britain with a lower than average investment from this shared institution. With the EU now committed to expanding investment across Europe through the £250 billion Juncker Plan, we need a government that will step up to the mark and deliver for working people here. The money’s there but the Tories aren’t making the most of it."

"If they weren’t consumed with bickering over a Tory Brexit, then the Tories could raise their game and help make sure that increased investment helps put in place the foundations for a secure economy, not the recovery built on sand that George Osborne has created. Increasing EIB investment in the UK to the EU average would mean an extra £2.4 billion a year, which could help build 160,000 new homes to address the housing crisis and creating a potential 65,000 jobs every year. Labour won’t stand by and allow Britain’s potential in Europe go to waste under a Tory Brexit." John McDonnell added.

Monday, 23 May 2016

BBC announce EU Referendum coverage

The BBC have announce that BBC One will screen two special editions of Question Time in the run up to the EU Referendum, putting leading advocates of the case to remain and the case to leave the European Union directly in front of a live audience.

In the first of the two programmes, the Justice Secretary and 'Leave' campaigner Michael Gove will answer questions on the case to leave the EU to a Question Time audience in Nottingham. This programme will broadcast on Wednesday 15 June. Four days later, on Sunday 19 June, the Prime Minister and 'Remain' campaigner David Cameron will take questions on the arguments to retain EU membership. This programme is live from Milton Keynes.

Both of the Question Time episodes will be moderated by David Dimbleby, and both programmes will be screened in the early evening to reach as wide an audience as possible.

The BBC has also announced the make-up of the panel for its first peak time debate – ‘How Should I Vote? The EU Debate’ which takes place in Glasgow this Thursday evening 26/05/16 on BBC One at 20:00.  The programme will be presented by Victoria Derbyshire. The BBC say that the programme is aimed at younger voters, and the audience comprises 18 to 29 year-olds. The audience members will be able to ask panellists questions, and challenge them on the issues that are of particular interest to them ahead of the EU Referendum.

Representing the 'Remain camp will be Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party MP for Gordon and former First Minister of Scotland, and Alan Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, and former Home Secretary. On the 'Leave' side of the argument will be Liam Fox, Conservative MP for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for Defence, and Diane James, UKIP MEP for South East England and their spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs.

The BBC say viewers can follow all these debates on twitter using #BBCDebate

Monday, 15 February 2016

Lib Dems will block the Tory 'pay to stay'

The Liberal Democrats say their peers will 'protect social housing' by blocking controversial plans in the government’s Housing and Planning Bill. Controversial plans in the Bill, which the Lib Dems say hope to curb include the imposition of starter homes, Pay to Stay, the extension of Right to Buy and the end of lifetime tenancies.

These four are amongst around 100 amendments tabled in the Lords today to the government’s Housing and Planning Bill. The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to strike out Pay to Stay out of the Bill altogether, while the Labour party have put forward amendments which if accepted will water down the policy rather than scrap it altogether. Its not known at this point if Labour will vote for the Lib Dem amendment.

Pay to Stay will see families or individuals with a total income of £40,000 plus a year in London, and £30,000 plus outside the capital, forced to pay the rental market rate. Savills Estate Agents have found that 214,000 households would be hit by the policy across England. 

In London, most of the 27,000 households affected will be unable to afford to rent privately or to buy in the same area. Camden is one of the London boroughs most affected by the change, with more than 2,000 families seeing a sharp increase in bills. The increase of which will go to the Treasury rather than local councils. 

The proposals in the Government's Housing and Planning Bill directly contradict what, Prime Minister, David Cameron said to Inside Housing magazine in 2010: "We support social housing, we will protect it, and we respect our social tenants’ rights."

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said: "The Housing bill is riddled with holes and unfairness. The Government has clearly drafted a Bill without consulting anyone who has lived in or experienced the realities of social housing. Social housing is a lifeline for thousands of people and the Conservatives seem driven by ideological dogma to sell off these homes." 

"The Prime Minister used to be vocal in his support for social housing. His actions show now that he was merely paying lip service." Mr Farron added.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Mrs May 'must think again' on surveillance

Today’s Joint Committee report is yet another reason why the Home Secretary, Theresa May, must think again on her plans for surveillance say the Liberal Democrats.

They say the report joins the chorus of concern already around the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed by critics as another 'snooper's charter' after the original was blocked by Nick Clegg while he was Deputy Prime Minister. The Lib Dems say that process, of this Bill, so far has meant the Bill is rushed, incomprehensible and vague.

The Liberal Democrats say they are urging the Mrs May to pause and listen to the conclusions and recommendations of the three reports.

Commenting on the report, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs, Alistair Carmichael said: "There is absolutely no one who believes this bill is going in the right direction. This is a major piece of legislation which will govern the powers of the Intelligence and Security services as well as law enforcement. We can’t afford to get it wrong, yet the Home Secretary seems intent on rushing it through as quickly as possible – despite reassurances to the contrary."

Mr Carmichael also threw his weight behind concerns of the joint committee: "The joint committee has added its criticisms to the growing voice of concerned groups who have serious misgivings about the bill. Even the Home Office’s usually loyal ally – the ISC, has published a scathing report on the draft Bill describing it as handicapped from the outset."

In a clear warning to Mrs May that that Liberal Democrats will use their Peers to defeat this Bill if necessary Alistair Carmichael said: "If the draft bill is left in anything like its current form it will have a very rough ride ahead of it through Parliament."

Paul Strasburger, member of the Joint Committee and Liberal Democrat peer echoed Alistair Carmichael's criticism of Mrs May: "Sadly, the Home Office has not learnt the lessons of the Snoopers Charter, which the Lib Dems scuppered during the coalition. Three Parliamentary committees have concluded that the new Bill, like the last one, is vague and confusing and has many other faults. The Government has a lot of work to do to get this important Bill into shape."

Calling on Parliament to throw the Bill out, Lord Strasburger said: "Parliament must not stand for loosely worded legislation. The Home Office has a bad habit of exploiting badly drafted Acts to create highly intrusive powers without bothering to get explicit approval for them or even mentioning them to Parliament. That must never be allowed to happen again."